How these tree-changers left inner-city Brisbane to run a truffle farm in Tasmania

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A much-needed lifestyle change has taken an adventurous couple from inner-city Brisbane to a completely new life.

Ina Ansmann and Timothy Noonan are growing black Perigord truffles among 600 oak and hazelnut trees on a farm where they serve homemade gourmet meals to guests.

But they wondered how hard it would be after buying the Tasmanian farm three years ago.

A Tasmanian Smithfield dog on a lead with a woman carrying a basket on a truffle farmA Tasmanian Smithfield dog on a lead with a woman carrying a basket on a truffle farm
 Ina Ansmann and her dog Cody hunt for truffles.(ABC Rural: Jessica Schremmer)

“We didn’t know anything about truffles at the time other than we’d eaten them a few times and they taste very nice but we knew nothing about truffle farming,” she said.

It has been a steep learning curve but they are reaping the rewards of a good season with a little help from their three-year-old Tasmanian Smithfield dog Cody, who sniffs them out.

“We are seeing some bigger truffles this season which is nice,” Ms Ansmann said.

A woman digging for truffles with a dog next to her on a farm.A woman digging for truffles with a dog next to her on a farm.
Ms Ansmann unearths fresh truffles with her companion Cody.(ABC Rural: Jessica Schremmer)

Demand for truffles rises

Ms Ansmann said cooking shows helped consumers to learn more about the many different uses of the aromatic ingredient.

A silver bowl filled with black truffles.A silver bowl filled with black truffles.
Truffles are becoming more popular among home cooks.(Supplied: Ina Ansmann)

“We are seeing a lot of local people coming throughout the season, buying small truffle for their omelette and pasta dishes,” she said.

With more than 400 truffle growers across the country, Australia is the fourth largest black Perigord truffle producer in the world.

Australian Truffle Industry Association president Noel Fitzpatrick said it was good to see demand on export markets return this year after the industry had been hit by the pandemic.

He said lockdowns, transport disruptions and hospitality closures left exporters stranded.

A woman in a green vest and jeans hugging a Tasmanian Smithfield dog on a truffle farm.A woman in a green vest and jeans hugging a Tasmanian Smithfield dog on a truffle farm.
Cody helps Ms Ansmann uncover truffles on their property.(ABC Rural: Jessica Schremmer)

He said about 10 tonnes of Australian-grown truffle was exported in 2019, making up 90 per cent of the total truffle production.

He said this year had been much better for exporters than the past two years with the aviation industry returning “somewhere back to normal” but there were still logistical disruptions.

Fine aromas

Ms Ansmann said she thoroughly enjoyed working with her beloved dog Cody to harvest the undercover crop.

“It’s quite amazing to watch, they [dogs] trace the scent from metres away, so it’s quite a special skill they have that we are quite dependent on,” she said.

A Tasmanian Smithfield dog lying on the ground in front of a dug up truffle on a farm.A Tasmanian Smithfield dog lying on the ground in front of a dug up truffle on a farm.
 Cody is able to sniff out truffles from a distance.(ABC Rural: Jessica Schremmer)

She said smelling the earthy fungus could be quite a subjective experience.

“Generally, if I have one truffle and I pass it around to 10 different people they will give me 10 different answers as in what they can smell in there.”

A freshly dug out truffle held up in a hand palm on a truffle farm.A freshly dug out truffle held up in a hand palm on a truffle farm.
Each truffle has about 150 different aromatics.(ABC Rural: Jessica Schremmer)

“It ranges from chocolate to vanilla, to hazelnut, to blue cheese, or dirt or earthiness or mushroomy notes or completely different answers.”